America's Three Regimes: A New Political History / Edition 1

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Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as "the single best book written in recent years on the sweep of American political history," this groundbreaking work divides our nation's history into three "regimes," each of which lasts many, many decades, allowing us to appreciate as never before the slow steady evolution of American politics, government, and law. The three regimes, which mark longer periods of continuity than traditional eras reflect, are Deferential and Republican, from the colonial period to the 1820s; Party and Democratic, from the 1830s to the 1930s; and Populist and Bureaucratic, from the 1930s to the present. Praised by The Economist as "a feast to enjoy" and by Foreign Affairs as "a masterful and fresh account of U.S. politics," here is a major contribution to the history of the United States—an entirely new way to look at our past, our present, and our future—packed with provocative and original observations about American public life.

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Editorial Reviews

Fred Siegel
Academic historians like Keller—a Brandeis professor emeritus—are often said to be incapable of writing the kind of lively, engaging accounts the public yearns for. But Keller…has put together one of the most engaging and accessible portraits of America's political evolution of recent years. He leavens his discussion with lively quotations and a sprinkling of apt statistics…if I were asked to name the single best book written in recent years on the sweep of American political history, I'd answer "America's Three Regimes."
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
The more things change, the more they stay the same-unless they change, which sometimes happens. Consider Republicans, for instance . . . Americans, even the nonexceptionalists, tend to think that their nation is a young thing. "But the reality of our public life is very different," writes emeritus professor Keller (History/Brandeis Univ.) "Our Constitution, only occasionally amended, is getting on to a quarter of a millennium. Our political parties are among the most venerable anywhere." In the spirit of more fluent work by Kevin Phillips (The Cousins' Wars: Religion, Politics, and the Triumph of Anglo-America) and David Hackett Fischer (Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America), Keller offers a long-view approach of that quarter-millennium span, asserting that American history falls into three broad periods: the "deferential and republican," marked by both a "mix of radical thought and moderate-to-conservative action" and a sense that the European way of doing things was likely best; the "party and democratic," running from the 1830s to the 1930s, in which an America-first mentality collided with international realities and the growth of the big state; and the "bureaucratic and populist," in which that big state came into its own even as conservatives denounced it. Keller's parsing needs some fine-tuning, but the idea that history works in broad patterns is instructive. So too is his observation that once one cycle has been run, the next is likely to be very different. Thus, for instance, "today the GOP stands in opposition to most of what defined it from the 1850s to the 1930s," more international than isolationist but also whiter and poorer. Even so, Keller observes, the oldtropes are likely to last a while longer, so that the Iraq mess will likely further cleave the two parties into "war" and "peace" camps even as the electorate hold to a long-standing general ratio of more or less equal division into Democrats, Republicans and the nonaffiliated. For students of American history, a thesis worth exploring.
From the Publisher
""Brilliant and original.... In America's Three Regimes, Morton Keller has not only provided a striking new way of thinking about American politics but also written an engaging narrative that can be read with profit by the general public as well as academic specialists. I would hazard a guess that Americas Three Regimes will find a place on the small and exclusive shelf of classics of American political history."—Michael Lind, The Forum

"Uniformly challenging and thought-provoking."—Mark J. Stern, American Historical Review

"Few will fail to be impressed by the scope of Keller's magisterial synthesis—a fitting capstone to an illustrious career."—Richard J. Ellis The Journal of American History

"A thought-provoking book, and anyone interested in US history or politics will want to be familiar with it. Highly recommended."—G.Eow, CHOICE

"One of the most engaging and accessible portraits of America's political evolution of recent years...if I were asked to name the single best book written in recent years on the sweep of American political history, I'd answer America's Three Regimes.—New York Times Book Review

"He is breezy without being glib, and original without being eccentric. Even if you don't find the idea of Mr. Keller's three regimes illuminating, his book is. Never misty-eyed, he keeps finding the right anecdote to support his view of American exceptionalism...his book is a feast to enjoy."—The Economist

"A masterful and fresh account of U.S. politics... a well-constructed and fast-paced historical narrative with a powerful analytic model make for a book that will provoke and engage specialists while providing less seasoned readers in the United States and abroad with a very useful and accessible introduction to the development of U.S. politics."—Foreign Affairs

"For students of American history, a thesis worth exploring."—Kirkus Reviews

"Professor Morton Keller of Brandeis has performed an important service with this brilliant, engaging new book.... In America's Three Regimes, Morton Keller has produced a valuable, highly readable survey of American political history that answers many of the questions about government and the people that we ask today. This is the epitome of pleasurable reading.... Kudos to Professor Keller and congratulations to those lucky enough to encounter his book."—the Weekly Standard

"This uncommonly ambitious book confirms Morton Keller's standing in the front rank of American political historians. Few scholars can match Keller's depth of knowledge about the entirety of America's political development, or his ability to weave such a rich and colorful narrative tapestry. America's Three Regimes is a book that compels us to re-think much that we have thought we understood about the American political tradition. This is history in the grand style—creatively conveived and magisterially executed."—David M. Kennedy, author of Freedom from Fear

"A sweeping history of American political institutions that stresses continuity as much as change, America's Three Regimes is a reminder of the importance of understanding the political past when grappling with the partisan present."—Joanne B. Freeman, author of Affairs of Honor

"An informative and enjoyable read. Every political scientist will learn from this magisterial account by one of America's foremost political historians."—Morris Fiorina, Stanford University

"Keller has written a highly original and compelling account of the American polity. Maintaining a brisk pace from the colonial era to the present, he shows how politics and government in the United States have been shaped by three enduring regimes that have wrestled with the profound challenges of emancipating the country from Great Britain, providing self-government on a grand scale, and upholding the rights of the individuals and groups in a complex, unforgiving commercial society. Combining rich narrative and keen insight, America's Three Regimes is a fascinating retrospective on the country's enduring problems and its impressive resiliency."—Sidney M. Milkis, Unversity of Virginia

"This study is an ambitious work; it is a sweeping political history of the United States from the colonial period to the present...In an engaging, fast-paced manner, the author narrates how the United States advanced from a colonial network, to a young republic, to a democracy with a strong two-party system, to the current populist-bureaucratic state in which many citizens define themselves by issues rather than political parties." — The Historian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195325027
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Morton Keller is Spector Professor of History Emeritus at Brandeis University.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction: The American Polity and Its Regimes     1
The Deferential-Republican Regime     7
Old Ways and New     11
The Republican Revolution     23
From Factions to Parties     42
The Party-Democratic Regime: The Democratic Polity     67
The Culture of Democratic Party Politics     71
Governing a Democratic Polity     88
Crisis     105
The Party-Democratic Regime: The Industrial Polity     133
The Age of the Politicos     135
A State of Parties and Courts     151
The Progressive Interlude     174
The Populist-Bureaucratic Regime     201
The Rise of the Populist-Bureaucratic Regime     207
Bureaucracy and Democracy     231
Populism and Party     259
Epilogue: Today and Tomorrow     281
Notes     301
Index     321
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